Yesterday, great Chicago Bears running back, Matt Forte, announced that the Bears told him they would not be offering him a contract for the 2016 season.
While we have mostly been involved in representing every day people, we have helped many athletes with their workers’ compensation claims over the years. Although it seems as if the laws should be different for a pro athlete, the reality is that they are the same as any teacher, construction worker or other employee. The biggest difference is that their job is more dangerous.
Forte is not permanently disabled from playing football at this time as it’s expected that he will sign on with another team. But through the years of running the ball and catching a ton of passes, Forte has sustained a lot of injuries. This year he injured his MCL in his knee for example and missed three games.
So while it’s expected that he can work (yes, football is a job) it’s highly likely that he won’t be able to find someone who is willing to pay him close to the seven million dollars he earned this past season. Like any other worker he’s entitled to 2/3 of the difference of what he would be making in his old job and what he can currently earn although it’s limited by a maximum payment of just under $1,400.00 a week. So he’s potentially owed around $78,000.00 a year tax free which even for someone of his earnings history is no small amount. And that payment could continue for more than 30 more years which means he’s possibly looking at more than $2.5 million in lifetime benefits.
As a result it makes sense for Forte to bring a case just as it makes sense for you if you are injured or anyone else. In his case, he has work related injuries that have diminished his earning capacity and caused him a wage loss which is known in Illinois as a wage differential case. It’s comparable to a construction worker who was previously paid for being able to do a job that requires them to lift 100 pounds, but now can only be paid for a job that requires lifting no more than ten pounds.
Just as we root for any injured worker with a legitimate claim, I’m rooting for Matt Forte. While many athletes seem to be disappointments, he truly seems like a great guy who was a class act in his eight years as a Bear. But even if he was a jerk, he has legit injuries and deserves to be compensated.